Since 2005, Google has taken steps to deliver search results based on other signals besides inbound links and keyword placement. Personalized search was rolled out back in 2005. It was designed to give people better results based on search results they found useful and based on historical searches, whether they were logged into a Google account or not. Although on the surface it seems like the feature locks out some potential for optimization, there are still some ways webmasters can leverage personalized search to their advantage.
Marketing in SERPs
The basic underlying idea of personalized search is that people are more likely to find results they’ve found useful in the past relevant the next time they use the same query. Assuming your page already ranks well, there is another reason someone clicked through to your website, and that’s usually what they saw in the content that Google choose to show to them in SERPs.
Writing Compelling Meta Descriptions and Titles
Meta descriptions and titles are typically the data that Google shows to users from a web page. Granted, they don’t have to show these things; however, most of the time they do. Sometimes these elements aren’t given the proper attention, or they are not configured at all. This is a big mistake. When configuring these, remember to:
- Use sales language for your meta description; this is your one chance to market to a user
- Front-load your primary keyword phrase (at the beginning of titles and meta descriptions). People see these bolded in SERPs and are more likely to click when they see them
- Remember to use proper length (around 72 characters for titles and 160 for meta descriptions)
These are all very basic SEO concepts, but the devil is in the details. Think of the last time you searched for something online. Did you click because something was the first result, or did you click because you thought you saw what you were looking for?
Rich Snippets and Structured Data
Making it easy for Google to understand the data on your page is another step webmasters can take to ensure that content they want appearing in SERPs does. Using the microdata format and a little knowledge of HTML, you can markup content in your web pages so it is much more easily seen and understood by Googlebot.
Microdata is the recommended method for marking up content, but webmasters can also use other methods. For every page of your website, you should apply markup code to data you want showing up for the target keyword phrase. This could be address information, a person’s name, a business name or a product description. You can learn more about the Microdata markup format here.
Focus on Quality Content
Perhaps the best method that a website owner has for leveraging personalized search is the caliber of his or her content. Personalized search works best for sites where people want to come back again and again. These might be pages that work well as references, tutorial information, instructions or other useful formats.
Your content should be well-researched and authoritative. It should be something that people want to share and want to bookmark. It should be highly useful, unique and one of the best resources on the web for its particular niche. This is the content that does well in personalized search, and you may find that it shows up frequently at the top of search results for people, even if it isn’t optimized for search.
When personalized search first debuted, it may have scared a lot of SEOs because it would be that much more complicated to make sure content ranked well. It wasn’t just about placing elements in the right spots anymore, but about impressing users; a task that’s much more difficult and elusive. There are some things you can do, though, to make sure you put your best foot forward. Write compelling language in content that shows up in SERPs, make sure Google can easily see that content and focus on writing for real people and not for search engines.
Have you been able to leverage personalized search? How has it impacted your website. Let us know by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.